APPLES (for Milton M.)
It was snowing in Vancouver the day you died. I was repainting my apartment, covering Mediterranean blue walls with layers of eggshell white paint. I was determined to work through the day and into the night until the job was done. I’d stopped to make lunch when the phone rang. It was Earl.
You need to go see Milton, Rodney. Ruby says he’s only got another day. Maybe two.
I thanked him and ended the call. I hurriedly showered scrubbing paint from my skin and hair. I ironed my clothes and quickly dressed. At the door I looked back into the apartment. The furniture and carpet were covered by white sheets, as if the falling snow had fallen inside the walls as well. The blue paint dark beneath the first coat of white was flowing water under ice too thin to walk on. I took the residential streets to the hospital. The black branches of the giant, leafless oaks arched above me like the charred roof of a burnout cathedral. I listened to the silence of the snowed-in streets as I walked to find some calm. The hallway to your room was wide, the bleached white floor shined like the full moon’s gaunt face on a winter’s night. The smell of human waste rose from canvas hampers filled with soiled bedding and gowns. Empty wheelchairs sagged askew by walls. I passed quiet rooms, the patients hidden in their beds behind beige curtains. I entered your room and sat by your bed to watch you sleep. It was as if someone had left a shrunken mask of the face I knew lying on the pillow. I held your hand. It was cold as the snow falling on the city. A nurse came into the room pushing a cart. She pulled a narrow table across your bed where she placed a tray and cutlery.
Would you like to feed him?
Sure. I replied
Milton! said the nurse loudly. Wake up. It’s time for lunch.
You stared at the nurse. Ruby? you asked.
She’s coming later Milton. You have a visitor. The nurse pointed to me.
Where’s Ruby? you asked me.
She’s coming later Milton.
Who are you?
Rodney’s going to help you eat your lunch.
He likes the applesauce. said the nurse as she took the cart and pushed it from the room.
You tried to lift your head from the bed, but fell back on the pillow. Your hands grasped the railings, but still you were too weak to lift yourself. You kept saying
No, I won’t! No, no, I won’t!
I leaned my face in front of yours. Milton! Hi!
Your eyes found me and you grinned. Milt, It’s Rodney.
Are you hungry? Can I give you some food?
Okay. you replied watching me.
I picked up a spoon and dipped it in the applesauce and moved it to your mouth. You closed your dry lips around it and swallowed. Those apples are good! Your eyes shined like polished fruit as the boy took your voice.
I fed you several times and after each you asked for more until you shut your eyes. I stayed another hour, holding your hand as you slept. When I first got sober you’d drop me off at the small room I called home, saying before I left your car
You’re alright babe. You just don’t know it yet.
Rodney DeCroo is a songwriter, poet and playwright. He has released 6 full-length albums, an album of poetry set to music (Allegheny), a book of poetry (Allegheny, BC) and a theatre production (Stupid Boy in an Ugly Town) that received critical acclaim at several Canadian fringe and writers festivals. DeCroo wrestles with regret, loss, aging, love, memory, death, art—always with his own ongoing recovery embedded in the background. DeCroo’s album and performances draw upon his greatest natural resource—his poetry.